In most cases, the easiest way to determine the health of your credit is to look at your credit score, a numerical value that reflects a mathematical analysis of your debt, your payment history, the existence of liens or other judgments, and other statistical data collected by the credit bureaus. In other words, your credit score is the compact, simplified version of your entire credit history, all rolled up into one tidy three-digit number.
You are also eligible for reports from specialty consumer reporting companies. We put together a list of several of these companies so you can see which ones might be important to you. You have to request the reports individually from each of these companies. Many of the companies in this list will provide a report for free every 12 months. Other companies may charge you a fee for your report.
Then there are "educational scores," which the credit bureaus produce for you, the individual consumer, to educate you about your creditworthiness. Most free credit scores fall into this category. These scores typically employ the same 300-to-850 scale, but they use proprietary formulas for their calculations that are not the same as the FICO or VantageScores. However, they take similar factors into consideration, so they can give you a ballpark picture of where you're at. More importantly, free scores often come with information about which factors are helping or hurting your credit score. This can give you some idea of what you can do to improve your score.
Some 200 million U.S. consumers have FICO credit scores, while just under 3 million, or about 1.4 percent, have perfect 850s. That’s according to Fair Isaac Corp., the company behind the 28-year-old scoring model used by lenders to predict whether you will pay back a loan. But over the years the number has become much more than that—it’s now an American totem of success or failure, hope or despair, security or risk. While there are competing models, almost anyone with a credit card knows that a number typically ranging between 300 and 850 holds huge sway over their financial life.
To make things more complicated, the FICO scores you see are not the same ones that lenders see, although they are very similar. All FICO scores are based on a scale ranging from 300 to 850, with a higher number representing a better score. If you want the most accurate idea of what your credit score is, you should look at all three of your FICO scores -- one from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Accordingly, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion created the joint venture company Central Source LLC to oversee their compliance with FACTA. Central Source then set up a toll free telephone number, a mailing address and a central website, AnnualCreditReport.com, to process consumer requests. Access to the free report was initially rolled out in stages, based on the consumer’s state of residence. By the end of 2005 all U.S. consumers could use these services to obtain a credit report.
TransUnion, Experian and Equifax aren’t the only credit reporting agencies that track your financial performance. Tens of other companies across the country maintain data on your rent payments, check-writing history and insurance claims. Along with traditional credit data, this alternative information is then factored into the decisions made by financial institutions, landlords, employers and insurers.
Checking your own credit score will not impact it in anyway positively or negatively. There is a difference between doing a soft credit check, which is what utility companies, landlords, or cell phone companies may do to see if you qualify for perks such as not having to pay a downpayment, and other types of credit checks that lenders usually do, which are called hard credit inquiries. Hard credit inquiries will typically reduce your score by a slight amount, but only temporarily until you start paying your loan.
Understanding your credit score and how it is calculated helps you take control of your credit and may lead to lower interest rates and more money-saving opportunities. Your credit report is one of the most important documents in your life. Whether you’re taking out a mortgage, a car loan or applying for a credit card, your credit report has a huge influence on the offers that lenders will approve you for.
It’s going to be extremely difficult to find any lenders willing to lend to you without a significant down payment or collateral to secure the loan against default. Insurance agencies will still underwrite insurance policies for you, but the products will be limited and they are going to cost significantly more than the same products for customers with better scores. You may also have higher car insurance costs.
Joint accounts are meant to help individuals who cannot qualify for a loan by themselves. With joint accounts, all of the joint account holders, guarantors, and/or cosigners are responsible for repaying the debt. The joint account, along with its credit history, appears on the credit report for all account holders. When all payments are made on time, the joint account can help build positive credit. However, if someone defaults on payments, all of the joint account holders will see the default on their own credit reports. Depending on the severity of the late payments and negative information, everyone's credit scores could be impacted significantly.
A: If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.